Eritrea’s Isaias Afeworki makes surprise visit to Ethiopia

Tuesday May 05 2020

Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed after cutting a ribbon during the inauguration of Meki-Ziway Irrigation Scheme in Ethiopia on May 4, 2020. PHOTO |ETHIOPIAN PM OFFICE

Eritrean president Isaias Afeworki on Sunday made an unexpected visit to Ethiopia, ending curiosity and wild speculation over the whereabouts of the reclusive long-time leader.

Upon arrival at Bole International Airport, President Afeworki -- accompanied by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Presidential Advisor Yemane Ghebreab -- was received by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The leaders subsequently discussed bilateral ties and regional concerns of common interest.

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde hosted a luncheon for the visiting Eritrean leader and his delegation. The event was held at a public park in the capital Addis Ababa.

“It was a renewed pleasure to join our PM Abiy Ahmed Ali in welcoming President Isaias Afeworki who is on a two-day visit to Ethiopia. We hosted him in the stunning park coming up on Entoto Mountain, a truly amazing place to relax and unwind,” said president Zewde in a tweet.

The two leaders also inaugurated an irrigation project located outside the capital in Oromia regional state.



The Eritrean president’s surprise visit to Ethiopia comes amid wild rumours that have been circulating for weeks in Ethiopia and overseas among diaspora communities regarding the state of his health.

A number of political analysts and exiled Eritrean opposition had speculated on the whereabouts of the leader after he disappeared from public view for over two weeks in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Isaias has reportedly returned home from recent medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

“After the latest bout of intensified rumours, President Isaias may have wanted to make a strong statement that not only was he in good health, but that he still maintains positive relations with Abiy and was still active in regional diplomacy,” William Davison, International Crisis Group (ICG) senior analyst for Ethiopia told the The EastAfrican.

At a time when world leaders are choosing to hold meetings virtually, such as via video or telephone, Mr Afeworki's decision to meet PM Abiy in person raised eyebrows.